Plan Your Privacy-Centric Strategy Now

An agency leader’s advice on how to prepare for the cookieless present

Third-party cookie deprecation, state and global regulations, and a new era of AI are driving a moment of significant change for marketers. To stay competitive, this must be a year of action. Brands should prioritize privacy at the core of their organizations to maintain the effectiveness and functionality of their marketing and measurement efforts.

Jason Hartley, head of media innovation and trust, privacy lead at digital advertising agency PMG, sounds off on how he and his teams are pushing advertisers to prepare in this pivotal year.

“Many brands are waiting to take action on the necessary privacy changes because it seems daunting or they’re unsure how to go about it,” said Hartley. “But if a brand waits until summer to take action on privacy changes, they will face challenges and miss big opportunities to gain market share.”

Although every brand is unique, Hartley recommends charting your privacy path with these considerations.

Embrace a privacy-first mindset

“A foundational step to build a privacy-forward brand begins with focusing on the positives and getting everyone involved,” said Hartley.

Instead of zeroing in on the penalties that may come from privacy non-compliance or what may break when third-party cookies go away, Hartley pushes his teams and clients to embrace this moment as an opportunity to meet the demands of the changing privacy landscape and grow their brands by innovating around the consumer.

And building a more privacy-centric future should be a priority for the entire organization, Hartley explained, from the C-suite to departments like marketing, data analysts, legal, privacy and engineering. This also means working with your agency partners, who have been developing new privacy and measurement strategies, tools and metrics in anticipation of changes. A cross-functional team is critical to understanding your privacy pitfalls and potential.

According to Hartley, “Prioritizing privacy doesn’t mean finding a replacement for cookies. It must be an organization-wide change in mindset.”

Identify your gaps

“After you’ve aligned to a common mindset and rallied your teams, you’re ready to identify existing gaps across your business,” said Hartley.

You may start by asking strategic questions that identify how prepared your organization is for these changes, where you want to be and if you have the resources to get there. You may also get more tactical in your exploration, like understanding how much of your current strategy relies on third-party cookies and if your investments are going towards tactics that won’t last beyond deprecation. It’s also important to know how you’re using first-party data, including its sources, who has access, how it’s stored and for how long.

Every business will face different situations as they go through this process. Retailers, for instance, have transaction data that is often siloed between online purchases and those from brick-and-mortar locations. Theirs is an exercise in stitching together first-party data into a unified view and determining how to best activate that data to drive effective outcomes.

Test with intention, measure for impact

Once you’ve identified your gaps, it’s time to close them with an agile test-and-learn approach while measuring for impact. “At the core, brands need to find the right mix for the long term without sacrificing performance in the near term,” Hartley shared.

In the short-term, double down on the efforts you know will not go away after support for third-party cookies is gone. For example, ensure you have a strong tagging foundation on your digital properties, you are capturing consumer consent and you have the analytics tools in place to measure engagement and traffic across your websites and apps.

From that foundation, begin testing new ways to build your first-party data strategy. A great place to start is low-hanging fruit like customer surveys, app usage or website visits. You might even have untapped sources of consented data across your business from customer service interactions or online chats. Or you may consider something entirely new, like a loyalty program.

And how do you know you’re driving business outcomes? Experimentation with measurement techniques like incrementality testing, media mix modeling and customer-based modeling will demonstrate the success of your tests even as third-party cookies and other identifiers phase out.

As you drive value from existing programs, test new ones and measure the impact, consider how AI can help you across all your efforts. The future of marketing is moving away from user-level precision to a world of aggregate insights. With the right data, AI can predict and model the evolving customer journeys to deliver stronger growth, more exciting creative and accurate measurement—all while protecting and respecting user privacy.

Build your privacy-first future now

Marketing’s core goals of engaging customers and driving profitable growth will stay the same, but the way they’re done is changing. The industry is shifting towards durable, privacy-first strategies that will open new opportunities to elevate customer trust and gain new market share.

With the deprecation of third-party cookies quickly approaching, now is the time to define those strategies for your business. Although your circumstances and starting point may differ, every brand can benefit from Hartley’s advice: Embrace a privacy-first mindset, identify your gaps and test with intention while measuring for impact.

“When you embrace this mindset and this challenge,” said Hartley, “there’s a lot to be excited about in a privacy-centric future.”

Barbara Piermont is a 17-year Google veteran who helped launch Google’s AdExchange and Open Bidding platforms globally. As the director of ads privacy go-to-market strategy in the Americas, she champions privacy-first advertising strategies for Google’s largest customers.